Ultimate Frisbee is a sport that has seen its popularity increase in recent years thanks to the exciting style of play offered.
“Chasing and then laying out for a disc to make a catch is a huge adrenaline rush, as well as ‘hucking’ a huge throw across the field to a running teammate and then ‘skying’ your opponent with a huge catch up in the air,” said Andrew Seymour, head coach of the Ultimate Club at Julian Middle School in Oak Park.
Ultimate Frisbee (more commonly referred to simply as “Ultimate”) is a combination of basketball, football and soccer with a disc instead of a ball. It’s a 7-on-7 game and is self-officiated. As a result, all players must know and understand the rules, the most important being that the person holding the disc can’t move at all. Points are scored when one team catches the disc in the opposing team’s end zone.
A unique component of Ultimate is a concept called “spirit.” It’s enforced on all levels of the sport and calls for high competition; respect for self, teammates and opponents; rules knowledge; communication; and respectful conflict resolution.
Bridget Doherty and Evan Tarshish are the coaches of the Ultimate Club at Oak Park and River Forest High School, which recently concluded a successful season.
“We believe that having these two grounding principles and goals for our team is what makes it successful,” Tarshish said. “The best part of Ultimate is that our players have embodied an attitude where, yes, they want to go out and play their best. But they also just want to have fun with everyone else on the field.”
This spring, OPRF took first place in the spirit category and second overall at the Reavis Rams Classic and was the top club in Chicago Ultimate Juniors Organization’s Sunday league.
The Huskies finished second in the state tournament, with wins over Elmhurst Evolution, Metea Valley and Fox Valley Fusion (the tournament’s top seed) before falling to Edwardsville in the championship match 13-10.
Moreover, OPRF’s junior varsity club took first in the Spirit category at the Neuqua Knockout Tournament in April.
“It’s been huge to end this season with many successes, but for us we are so proud to say that players who play in our program leave with a lifelong love and respect for the sport and other people and become strong leaders,” Doherty said.
Seymour founded the OPRF club in 2010, then created a club at Julian two years later. This year, there were more than 130 students in the club, and the large turnout allowed Julian to field seven teams at each of three tournaments.
The top eighth-grade team, Julian Alpha, took first place in the state tournament. And Julian Delta, the first-ever predominantly girls team in Ultimate, went 4-0 in the developmental division.
“We’ve come such a long way from the early days of scrounging up eight to 10 players at OPRF,” he said. “We have some real momentum and it’s by far the fastest growing sport in Oak Park and one of the fastest growing in Illinois.”
Seymour serves on the Illinois Ultimate Board of Directors and he and Tarshish would like to see Ultimate become sanctioned by the Illinois High School Association. Seymour says it’s in the process of gaining “emerging sport” status as programs grow at both the high school and middle school levels around the state.
“Our players train for Ultimate,” Tarshish said. “They balance schoolwork and play competitively against other teams. Illinois Ultimate and Oak Park and River Forest Youth Ultimate are actively working to make Ultimate an IHSA sport.”
OPRFYU is an organization that all three coaches credit for helping to grow interest in Ultimate on a local level. President Stacy Fifer spearheads a group of dedicated individuals that create camps and clinics across the area.
Since Ultimate is a no-cut sport, the growing numbers present a challenge. In order to keep all of the programs open for everyone, volunteers are needed. Those who are interested can contact Fifer at firstname.lastname@example.org.